It’s hard to imagine that we need scientific studies to encourage us to sleep, but the evidence is mounting that getting enough shut-eye at night has crucial, lasting benefits for human beings.
The latest study examines the role of sleep in improving memory and learning. The study found that sleep promotes the creation of brain synapses — the connections between the brain’s neurons — that are essential to learning. That study follows countless others that demonstrate the physical and mental benefits of sleep — a state that allows the brain to discard toxins formed by daily activity, helps us recharge and reduce the risk of many different diseases, and restores the body to the ancient circadian rhythms that human beings have followed since the dawn of the species.
I’ve always tried to make sure that I get enough sleep. In law school, on the day before our final exams when some of my classmates would stay up until all hours cramming, I put my books aside and went to bed early so I could be fresh and ready for the big test tomorrow. I always felt like my rested state gave me an advantage in terms of energy and mental focus, and I’ve tried to carry through that practice in my career, too.
Many of us — in our zeal to be SuperMom, or our focus on our jobs, or our desire to cram every conceivable bit of activity into the waking hours — have cut significantly into our sleep time. Obviously, it’s a mistake. If you want to help your kids do better in school or on the job, make sure they get a good night’s sleep. And instead of staying up to watch a late night talk show or another Seinfeld rerun, why not hit the sack yourself?